`Sunday December 19 - St Nicholas of Myra
Luke 17:12 – 19 The Ten Cleansed Lepers
Sermon by Fr Nicholas Karipoff
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Everybody is happy to receive the gifts of God. But not many people acknowledge Him and reciprocate His giving by giving Him the sacrifice of praise. This is illustrated by today’s story of the ten lepers who were healed, and only one of them came back to thank God. Does God require our thanks and praise? No! He doesn’t need it; he doesn’t need anything at all from us. We need it! A relationship can only be established and work when it’s two-way, not when it’s all one-way… give, give, give. St Paul reports to us the words of Christ, in the Book of Acts (which are not recorded in the Gospels – as John writes there are many words from Christ that aren’t recorded in the Gospels), that it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Today’s humanity only wants to receive. It walks away from God like the nine lepers in the story. Are we sometimes with them too? Or are we with the one who came back to thank the Lord? When we walk away, the gifts cannot last. We can walk away with a gift, but the gift won’t last. Then we feel fear, anxiety and we get depressed. St Paul teaches that Christians have to be in the state of joy constantly. How is that possible? There are so many difficult things in life. The answer is given to us when we reverse the order of that saying: rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and thank God for everything. If we reverse it, we see that we must begin with thanksgiving, then learn to be connected to God through constant prayer. Now to be connected to God that way doesn’t mean we necessarily have to be saying many prayers, but our spirit must be connected with Him. We have to remember about Him. That’s the beginning. That ensures a state of happiness, of spiritual joy. This lifestyle is illustrated by one of the most glowing images of sanctity - today’s saint, St Nicholas. And of course, it’s illustrated in the lives of all the saints. Let’s learn to be like the Samaritan leper in today’s Gospel story, who came back to thank God. Let’s establish a proper relationship with God by reciprocating the many gifts that we receive from Him with the gift of thanks and of acknowledgement, the gift of thanks and praise.
For instance, how thankful we should be to come to church in an almost-normal situation, something we haven’t seen for such a long time, when everybody who wants to come to church can come. I think some of our people, especially some of our elderly parishioners, don’t know about this and that might be why they’re not here. But the thing is, we have to be careful not to rest on our laurels. We’ve received this gift, now God looks to see what we do with it. We can come to church as many times as we like, and as many of us as we like. Are we going to come? I fear that unfortunately the lockdowns have made us complacent about staying home or thinking we can’t make it to church. Well, now you can! This gift has to be used properly. We also have to keep thanking God and connecting with Him, so that this gift lasts. Otherwise, we’ve walked away with the gift and it will disappear. We must not let this happen. Because when we walk away, we will again experience that fear and anxiety which Christians should never feel. It’s a symptom of disconnectedness from God. When we’re connected, when we live the life of thanksgiving and prayer, the joy of Christ will always be with us. This is the real joy of life. Life is the greatest gift of God. Life is meant to be enjoyed, but in a proper way, not in a hedonistic, materialistic, carnal way. When our whole being, beginning with our spirit, rejoices, then it’s normal and valid to have the other joys and the other consolations which even monastics talk about. We can have them, but first let’s earn the joys of life, the greatest gift of God.
Sunday December 12
Luke 13:10 – 17. A Woman Healed on the Sabbath
Sermon by Fr Nicholas Karipoff
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
In today’s story, we hear about a woman who was severely bent over. Her back was bent so much that she couldn’t look up at all. In that sense, she was like an animal. No animal is able to stand upright, to stand vertically. The Holy Fathers say that human beings are different to animals, because human beings do stand straight. With our whole posture we point to heaven, to our spiritual homeland. We are called to work in this direction, towards heaven. After the Lord had healed the woman, the ruler of the synagogue challenged him because He had healed her on the sabbath. The Lord answered that the woman had need of healing on the sabbath, to set her free from this severe infliction caused by the devil.
There has been constant warfare since the day when our forefathers stretched their hand to the forbidden fruit, to the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They were tempted, and they accepted those sweet temptations. The Lord rejected these same temptations in the desert when He came to restore the damage that had been done by our forefathers, who accepted food as being something primary to their life. By doing this they also accepted all the passions associated with the aesthetic side; as I mentioned recently, in the culture of imperial Rome, this was referred to as bread and circuses. Food and entertainment. The third temptation of Christ in the desert is about the worship of the devil. Adam and Eve did not formally bow down to him, like he had said to Jesus in the desert: Fall down and worship me and I’ll give you power over the kingdoms that belong to me. But they did believe the devil more than they believed God. They believed the liar who said I’m going to give you the secret of how to become like gods.
History has seen periods and fluctuations where humanity has become more and more enslaved spiritually through its falling, through sin, as well as periods when people rose from this. There are a number of examples of enslavement in the twentieth century because of ideologies. I’m talking about the communist ideology and to a lesser extent - but it’s also an awful beast - the Nazi fascist ideology. Ideology mimics religion. Ideologies appear when religion and faith are lost. Some sort of an ideology attempts to replace this vacuum in the human soul. I remember my father, a long time ago, referring to Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin as the gospels of communism because they were treated and presented as such, as the good news to humanity. These ideologies were built around humanism. Humanism is something that goes back to the world of antiquity and was overcome by Christianity but then resurfaced in the Renaissance, around the fifteenth century and has been growing since then. In the late 1980s and early 1990s there was a fall of communist ideology, and the fall of communist socialist regimes in Eastern Europe first, and then in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and the republics of the former Soviet Union.
But for many decades another ideology has been growing which goes further than humanism. In the last ten to fifteen years especially, a number of thinkers, intellectuals and philosophers have been worried about the appearance of this new ideology which can be broadly termed trans-humanism. Trans-humanism is changing the human being into something that is not human anymore, using science and technology to alter the physical and mental state of human beings. Humanity will no longer be able to go through cycles of falls and rises and overcome ideology, just like it did in the past, including during the twentieth century. If human beings become more like animals they will not be able to rise, to look up to Heaven. Human beings will be like this poor woman in the story, whose whole posture spoke of domination and enslavement by the devil.
That is a great danger for humanity of the future; and maybe not so distant future, because the technology is already here. Look at what happened during the 1940s with the Manhattan Project, the development of the nuclear weapon. Some of the physicists that were working on this project warned the American government not to go ahead with it, not to test the bomb. They said, look, we don’t know how the chain reaction works. What if the chain reaction transfers from these atoms of uranium and plutonium into the atoms that make up the air, and the chain reaction begins to spread through the whole atmosphere? These were serious physicists. Serious scientists were warning humanity in the same way very serious thinkers today are warning society of trans-humanism because the ideology is already there. There’s such a total loss of desire for God and such a belief in the power of humanity and the power of science that the danger is already here.
I’m not just saying this to scare you. There are enough scary things around. At the moment people are terrified of the virus and this fear is not disappearing. There’s something spiritually wrong about that fear. It’s a great challenge to the church to stand up to these fears, and to the spiritual transformation of humanity to make it into an animal-kind of breed.
We need to pray, and our prayer must come not from hysterical fear, but from a peaceful state of the soul, a humble and loving state of the soul where we love everybody, and we do not enter into ideological fights with other people, especially in the church. This is happening in the world; families are being divided in the secular world. But it must not happen in the church because the church is the only chance of the world to stop these destructive processes developing further and further until there is no way back. We know that God is not going to allow this and eventually He will intervene, of course, to stop this destructive process. But it’s better that we take the spiritual iniative. We need to do it, because we’re called upon by our Saviour Jesus Christ to be His co-workers. We are like the gardeners on this earth, we have been entrusted with this earth to create a paradise. We’ve lost the original paradise; we’ve lost the Garden of Eden. But Christ has enabled us to return to it, and the return is through the church, the return is through the Life of Christ. This is our calling.
Sunday December 5Sermon by Fr Nicholas Karipoff
Luke 12: 16 – 21 The Parable of the Rich Fool
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
In today’s parable of the rich man with an abundant harvest, the Lord introduces a note of caution: take heed and beware of covetousness and greed. Our life is not about the abundance of things we possess; rather it has been said that what we possess really possesses us. Adam, tempted at the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, became a possessor and a consumer. He was easily enslaved by the tempter, and this led to him having a deluded view about life. Adam, and with him the whole human race, became delusional about the reality of life.
Now let’s think about Australia. Per capita, Australia is the richest country in the world. It has a small population and is very rich in resources. For over 70 years we have had no major wars, and no political or economic problems. As I’ve been saying lately, we’ve had it too good for too long. When Covid began early last year, our Premier Dan Andrews said that life will never be the same as before. He knows what he’s talking about… our life could become more and more regulated as it has been over the last two years, or it could go the other way with a breakdown in politics and economics leading to a more chaotic situation. Either way, most of us will become poorer.
Is that all bad? Well, let me quote somebody else. And this person is not exactly a friend of God – Lenin. He wrote that the worse it is, the better it is. Let’s think about those words from a Christian point of view. God is love. He allows crises because crises are a dose of hell here on earth. He allows them to happen. They enable us human beings to think and realise, as Christ says, that life is not about possession. When we become possessed by materialism, we create our own hell. It’s not a secret for you that during the last decades, anxiety and depression have been on the rise in the affluent world. We have an abundance of everything - eat , drink and be merry, just like this rich man in the parable. And yet anxiety and depression are on the rise, in the midst of our affluence. There is only one way out. Know the truth and the truth will make you free.
Like Pontius Pilate, the secular world throughout the ages has shrugged their shoulders and said, what is truth? We Christians know that Jesus Christ is the Truth. So let us get to know Him. Let us get to know Him properly. Establish a relationship with Him. Turn to Him in prayer. As St Paul says, “be joyful always, pray without ceasing and thank God for everything.” And you won’t get depressed. You won’t be anxious. He, Jesus Christ, will then free us from all fear, all anxiety, and all depression. He will fill our life with real meaning that comes from the divine gift of life which is love. Amen.
Sermon by Fr Nicholas Karipoff
Luke 10: 25 – 37 The Good Samaritan
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
In today’s reading, the lawyer, a specialist in the law of Moses, asked Jesus Christ how one can obtain eternal life. He had heard about Christ’s teaching, and he correctly answered the question about the Law posed to him by Christ - that the Law, the way to eternal life, is about love of God and love of our neighbour. However, what the lawyer did not understand was the nature of love. What is love? Therefore, he asked, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ In other words, who is worthy to be loved by me? Who is worthy of my love?
In response, the Lord tells a very moving story, the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Christ is the Good Samaritan. Those Jews who did not believe in Him despised Samaritans. Galilee was just north of Samaria, so they called him a Samaritan as an insult. Christ uses the word differently. He’s the Good Samaritan who came to heal us – who are the half-dead descendants of Adam – in a spiritual sense. The parable, however, answers the lawyer’s questions in a very unexpected way. Rather than explaining to us. together with the lawyer, who our neighbour is, Christ describes how to become a neighbour to everybody. Or, at the very least, how to become a neighbour to those people in need of healing who God sends to us. Yes, it begins with those who speak directly to our conscience. And where does it end?
The saints, as we find out from their lives and their writings, were able to encompass the whole world with their love, with their prayer. Oh, how the world today needs this sort of love, this sort of prayer, and the healing that it brings! Now patristic exegesis – which means interpretation of scripture – the exegesis of this parable tells us of the man descending from Jerusalem to Jericho. Anyone who’s been to the Holy Land knows that Jerusalem is up in the high hills, in a mountainous area, and Jericho is in the lowest depression on earth, 400m below sea level. It is a very steep descent between the two, over a short distance. The man who is walking from Jerusalem to Jericho represents the spiritual descent, on the way from closeness to God to disconnect from Him. The man is beaten up, just as the whole of humanity is beaten up by the demons. This happens historically, whenever there is this spiritual descent taking humanity from the high spiritual state of Jerusalem to the low spiritual state represented by Jericho.
I would venture to say that apart from Noah’s day, there has never been a time in spiritual terms as low as the times we are living in today. Humanity is so badly beaten up with the current crisis. According to the Holy Fathers, the priest and the Levite who walked past the man, lying beaten up on the road, represent the law. The law was unable to heal humanity. The Good Samaritan, Christ, had to come. The law and its righteousness was futile and empty. The modern world has also developed its own ideology that is full of religious fervour. But the righteousness of today’s law also cannot heal humanity. The Church is represented by the inn in the parable, to which the Good Samaritan took the beaten-up man. Can the church continue to care for humanity? Can it continue its healing work? Perhaps the invisible bandits have now turned on the church to give up humanity, to give up this beaten-up man, to destroy him completely. Perhaps it is time for the Good Samaritan to come back as he promised the innkeeper, Look after him until I come back. That’s of course, the Second Coming.
These are questions not only for our time. The Church in the early centuries was faced with the same questions. During the first and second centuries, and into the third century, it could not see a future for the world. The Church could not see any future for the world. And it was looking forward to Christ’s Coming. Yea Come O Lord Jesus. That was the feeling within the Church. And yet, the Church then overcame the world, just as Christ said to his disciples at the Mystical Supper; that in the world you will have sorrows but be of good cheer. Be daring. For I have vanquished, defeated, the world. And the Church then defeated the world, and the world came to the Church. The iron empire of the Romans became, well at least externally, a Christian empire. It could happen again if we truly want it to happen. It can only happen, however, if the Church - the physician - heals itself. Let’s seriously seek healing from the Good Samaritan. He can do it! Amen.
Luke 8: 41 – 56 – Jairus’ daughter is raised, a woman is healed
Luke 10: 16 – 21 – the Apostles cast out demons
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Today’s two readings enable a contemplation of the huge problem, which is called theodicy. This word was coined in 1710 by the great European scientist and religious philosopher, Leibniz. This word, which he invented, means justification of God for why evil and suffering occur in the world. The first reading today, the Sunday reading, gives us the story of the woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years, and Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, whose daughter was dying. While Christ was on His way to heal the daughter, He was held up by the woman, and the daughter of Jairus died and was then raised by Jesus Christ. The second reading today was for St Michael the Archangel and the other Bodiless Powers in which we hear the apostles coming back joyfully from their missions, saying even the demons obeyed them, and Christ saying that He saw the fall of Satan from heaven.
The problem of theodicy, or rather the failure to understand the problem as much as is possible with the mind and the heart, causes people to fall away from God. They say, where is your God? It’s best formulated, as I’ve said on occasion in the past, by Ivan Karamazov in Dostoevsky’s great novel (The Brothers Karamazov) when Ivan says, I give back to God my ticket to heaven if it has to be bought even with one teardrop of an innocent child. Here’s the problem of theodicy stated in the most powerful way you could probably do it. The origin of evil, the origin of pain and suffering is precisely caused by the falling away from God who is all goodness. How can this happen, this falling away?
It happens because we’re given the tragic gift – this is how some of the philosophers of the 20th century call it – the tragic gift of free will which is given to the angels and to human beings. The first was Lucifer, the greatest of the angels. We celebrate the angels today, but he’s not celebrated of course, he fell away. How did this happen? He had thoughts something like this, I’m so great. Surely, I don’t need God. I am an independent god myself. And then he teaches humanity to think the same, that we don’t need God. And today the sentiment that we don’t need God is shared by millions and perhaps billions of people. This falling away causes all the evil and all the pain and suffering, and that includes the current problem of the pandemic. And everything that goes along with that pandemic. How humanity thinks or rather is taught by Lucifer to think, is that the ultimate evil is free will, the freedom to choose, and therefore it must be destroyed to make us happy. That all we need to be happy is bread and circuses – a purely materialistic life with entertainment, with a full stomach and we’re happy watching the box or anything else. That’s Lucifer’s recipe for human happiness.
But what is the real answer? Well, Jesus Christ said, know the truth and the truth will make you free. Jesus Christ, you are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Send St Michael and the Angels to protect us so that we too are not led into temptation.
Sunday sermon November 14, 2021
The Gadarene Demoniac: Luke 8: 26 – 39
By Fr Nicholas Karipoff
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Last Sunday we heard the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus and that gave us a picture of transformation in hell. Today the story of the Gadarene Demoniac is another image of this transformation through hell. Look at the difference in the whole image of this man before and after, at the beginning of the story and at the end. He’s completely different, a transformed man. Torment and angst disappear, and Christ brings peace to him. Now we don’t know the pre-history of this man, why he found himself in this hell on earth. Clearly he caused it himself, but it was, on the other hand, for his salvation as well. It was for his liberation from the torment and destruction.
In recent months, over the past 18 or 19 months or so, many people have been anxious and angry about our viral hell, the hell caused by this virus since last year. Sinful humanity always seeks someone else to blame. We always look for a scapegoat. We intensify our hell by blaming each other. Instead, we should blame ourselves as the Holy Fathers teach. A whole spiritual culture within Orthodoxy is to look at yourself first to find the problem and then to come to a measure of contrition. Then Christ will have mercy on us, He will free us from the tormenting demons, and we will acquire peace.
The second part of the story raises another point, about pigs and pig-lovers, the Gadarenes. The Bible uses the pig as an image of carnal life, devoid of spirit. These pigs in the story drown in the sea, exactly like the ancient spiritless world in the waters of the Great Flood. Only the cataclysm saves them for eternity when Christ descending into Hades, into Hell, preaches to them and brings them out of there. Pig-lovers identify with the pigs. They’re afraid of Christ. They beg him to leave them.
To understand the process of our path to liberation and salvation, we need to contemplate the three temptations of Christ. That’s another story and unfortunately doesn’t come up in Sunday readings. But it is an exceedingly important story about what Christ does straight after his baptism, fasting for forty days and then challenging the devil. Now Adam was defeated by these three temptations, and I will remind you how they come up in the story of Christ. First is bread, and that’s about the carnal, materialist life. Second is miracles or marvels, or in other words entertainments. These first two are bread and circuses! And the third one is power and authority. This is given by the prince of this world, our adversary, when he says to Christ, “fall down and worship me and I’ll give you power over all the kingdoms of the world”. This is a big, important topic. And as a matter of fact, in our Gospel studies which are broadcast every fortnight on YouTube, we’re coming up to this story of Christ’s temptation. We’ll be discussing it this Sunday, November 21, at 7pm; the topic is Christ’s baptism and His defeat of Satan in the desert.
Now we Christians must understand these dynamics. The temptations are always present. They’re very intense in today’s world. Very intense. By yielding to them over decades, we have yielded to the legion of demons which brings the hell on the outside, and on the inside as well if we’re not careful.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Free us from the hell of our own making. Amen.
Sermon Sunday November 7, 2021
The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Luke 16: 19 - 31
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
Today’s date is the 7th November, the 25th of October in the Julian calendar. It is the date of the October Revolution of 1917. Revolutions seem to stand up for the Lazaruses that we’ve just heard about, and against the rich men of this world. However all revolutions inevitably create a hell on earth, where the roles are reversed. Some of the Lazaruses, not that many, become the rich men. And the rich men become beggars, like Lazarus in today’s parable. Paradoxically, we hear from the Holy Fathers that hell, whether here on Earth or in the other dimension, is an expression of God’s love. Elder Ambrose of Optina also says that God does not create your cross. It grows on the soil of your heart. I think the same can be said about hell. We create it. Like the rich man in today’s parable who created a hell on Earth for Lazarus and a hell for himself in the afterlife. One might ask why hell is an expression of God’s love? While we are the ones who create it, God can turn things around and use it for our salvation. Pain transforms us. The rich man in today’s parable begins to think of other people for the first time in his life when he is in hell. That’s a step forward – progress! Wonderful! He thinks of himself first and asks Abraham to relieve his agony, but if that’s not possible, then at least he’s trying to do something for his brothers. Fantastic!
I’ve been saying recently that we’ve had it too good for too long. We have been the rich men. Somewhere else millions, tens of millions, maybe hundreds of millions of Lazaruses out of our sight, have toiled like slaves and suffered to enable us to have the affluent lifestyle that we’ve had for decades. Some Lazaruses were even close to us, physically. But we didn’t notice them, like the rich man didn’t notice the Lazarus who was outside of his door. These Lazaruses close to us may not have needed material help, but they needed love. They needed our support, they needed a smile, a warm word, a hug, and we didn’t see that. We were engrossed in our good life, in our comforts. We didn’t want to be disturbed.
As you know, I was born in Mao’s China. My grandparents took my parents there as little kids in 1920 – 21, because they didn’t agree with the revolution. My mum was a baby. In the city of Harbin, we had a spiritual elder whose name was Fr Ignati. He was an amazingly gifted man, a spiritually gifted man. He was blind but he would call people by their names as they came up to him. Even those that he’d never met before. One of our parishioners - whom I won’t mention by name in case it slightly embarrasses her although I don’t see anything embarrassing here in retrospect - she came to him as a teenager and would attend the monastery with her family where he lived. And he, the blind man, said to her, “Dear, you should be ashamed of yourself, fancy painting your toenails!”. Now she was wearing shoes, and he’s blind. How on earth did he know that she painted her toenails?!
Fr Ignati died in 1958. In the mid – to late 1950s and early 60s most of the people began to leave Manchuria. Before Fr Ignati died, some people that I have known in Sydney came up to him for a blessing to go to Australia. He said, “By all means, God bless you. Go to Australia, but communism will come to Australia too.” So that’s a prophecy of sorts. There are other secular prophets. For instance I mentioned last year to you the book that I bought soon after it was published in May 2020 by a very prominent man in the DAVOS Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab. His book is called Covid 19 and the Great Reset. What is the Great Reset? This year he has been saying sort of a catch phrase By 2030 you won’t own anything and you’ll be happy. That’s another prophesy.
Now a number of modern spiritual elders have all said that prophesies are given in order that they are not fulfilled, at least spiritual prophesies. The secret is repentance. Let’s learn from the Ninevites who took Jonah’s words very seriously. The prophet Jonah, in the belly of the whale. Read his book, the story is fascinating. Christ used the image of Jonah as the symbol of His resurrection on the third day. The Ninevites changed their life and survived. They acknowledged God and his values above bread and circuses. That’s a Roman expression, as you know, about the good life and entertainment that people value so much and have always valued throughout all the ages. And bread and circuses are still important in the world.
All holy Lazaruses, millions of you, pray for us. Enable us to understand your spirit, so that we know where we’re going spiritually.
Archpriest Nicholas Karipoff
Bible StudyEvery second Sunday night, from 7pm, led by Father Nicholas Karipoff. To join the email list, contact Costa: email@example.com
You can catch up with previous sessions on the Pokrov youtube channel.
Watch the talk from Sunday Nov 7: https://youtu.be/iuflv37mPWM
Trivia Bible Quiz Part 1
– how well do you know Genesis?!
1. In the Creation story what did God make on the 4th day?
1.Birds and fishes
3.Light and darkness
2.Eve was tempted and ate what kind of fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden?
4.None of the above
3.Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to the Lord. Whose sacrifice was accepted?
4.How old was Noah when the flood came on the earth?
5. When the flood ceased – on which mountain did the Ark come to rest?
6. How many days was it before Noah opened the window of the Ark to see if the waters had decreased of the earth?
7. What did Noah do first when he came out of the Ark?
1. lit a fire
2. saw a rainbow
3. shouted for joy
4. built an altar
8. When God called Abram to leave Haran which direction did he travel?
9. What is the relationship of Lot to Abram?
10. What is the name of Sarai (Abram’s wife) maidservant?
(With thanks to Elaine)
1. 3 - Light and darkness Genesis 1:14-19
2. 4 – none of the above Genesis 3:1-7
3. 2 - Abel Genesis 4:3-8
4. 4 – 600 years Genesis 7:6
5. 2 -Ararat Genesis 8:4
6. 1 – 40 Genesis 8:6
7. 4 – built an altar Genesis 8:20
8. 2 – south Genesis 12:9
9. 1 – nephew Genesis 12:5
10. 4 – Hagar Genesis 16:1
WHAT IS ‘BYZANFEST’?
An international film festival strictly dedicated to Eastern Orthodox Christian filmmakers. Established in 2013, Byzanfest promotes Orthodox cinema to a global audience and strives to instill Orthodox phronema into the creative process.
Byzanfest streams on-demand and hosts physical screenings during “Screening Week”, which will run this year from Saturday 30th Oct – Monday 8 th Nov (AEST).
The Nativity of the Mother of God – September 21, 2021
Thy Nativity, O Theotokos Virgin,
hath proclaimed joy to all the world;
for from thee hath dawned the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God,
annulling the curse and bestowing the blessing,
abolishing death and granting us life eternal.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God announces the coming of the joy of salvation into the world. This is what the troparion of the feast talks about. The fullness of this joy comes to fruition with the cross of the Son of the Holy Virgin. One of the stanzas in the Canon, the katavasia that is sung in the next feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, speaks of Aaron’s rod flowering to indicate the eventual fruitfulness of the Old Testament church. Now today’s story of the feast is just as much about Joachim and Anna and the generations that came before them as it about the Mother of God and the joy of her birth which we celebrate today. Stories about transformation through prayer, blooming, becoming fruitful.
Today’s world thinks about overcoming Coronavirus, overcoming this virus seems to be the central problem of the world. Now since last year I have mentioned in various ways that there has been a much more serious virus around for much longer – a spiritual virus that is the cause of all our problems including the coronavirus, and everything else that goes with it. I’d like to share something with you, to read you a passage. This passage is one of the first of the great Christian novels by Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment. It’s a dream that the central hero, Raskolnikov, has when he is sent for his crime of murder to serve hard labour and he gets very sick during Great Lent. While he experiences high fever he has this dream. Dostoyevsky clearly saw the appearance of the virus - the spiritual virus - which I’ve been talking about since last year. A virus that has led to destruction, to the wars. The First World War was supposed to be the war to end all wars, then on the heels of this war came the Russian Revolution which sparked a whole host of processes; the appearance of other totalitarian regimes later on including Nazi Germany and the Asian communist regimes, the ones in Central, Eastern Europe and so on. So here is the passage:
“He dreamt that the whole world was condemned to a terrible new plague that had come to Europe from the depths of Asia. All were to be destroyed except the very few chosen. Some new sorts of microbes were attacking the bodies of men. But these microbes were endowed with intelligence; intelligence and will. Men attacked by them became at once mad and furious, but never have men considered themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers. Never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible. Whole villages, whole towns and peoples went mad from the infection. All were excited and did not understand one another. Each thought that he alone had the truth and was wretched looking at the others, beat himself on the breast, wept and wrung his hands. They did not know how to judge, and could not agree what to consider evil and what good. They did not know whom to blame, whom to justify. Men killed each other in a sort of senseless fight. They gathered together in armies against one another but even on the march the armies would begin attacking each other. The ranks would be broken and the soldiers would fall on each other stabbing and attacking and devouring each other…”
I’ll stop there because the dream goes on longer, but I think this is enough of an illustration of what I’ve been trying to convey to you several times since last year about the spiritual process. This is what it is. And today’s Feast teaches us that only transformation through prayer can help. Only God can save us through Christ who speaks about this, and He says that this spiritual virus can only be defeated through prayer and fasting. We actually heard those words quite recently just after the Feast of Holy Transfiguration. So let us increase our prayers and our fasting , which is as I explained on many occasions is not just about a change of diet. Fasting is about control and self-limitation in thought, in word, and in deed. That’s what it’s about. If we do that we will be free of that much more serious and deadly virus, the spiritual virus, and we won’t even worry about many of the other things that seem to be so central in today’s world.
Most Holy Mother of God save us with your prayers. Protect us, protect the Church, protect the world. For you are the Mother of the Saviour, to whom is due glory together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever unto the ages of ages, Amen.
Sermon by the Very Rev Father Nicholas Karipoff